Ingredients for a Great Company Culture

Nick Sarillo "gets it" ["Lessons From a Blue-Collar Millionaire," February]. I have been in the restaurant business for 30 years, working my way up from bartender to owner of a consulting company. Teaching employees why they should do something rather than simply telling them to do it is often overlooked, but, as Sarillo has proved, the rewards are immeasurable.

Tony Figurelli
Owner, Meridian Hospitality Associates
Boynton Beach, Florida

I couldn't help noticing the similarities between the way Nick Sarillo manages his pizza empire and the leadership traits that Jim Collins writes about in Good to Great. This goes to show that the same great management practices can help build a dynamic culture at companies both big and small. Bravo, Mr. Sarillo, and thank you, Inc., for this story.

Peyman Zand
Principal, Applied Vision Group
Raleigh, North Carolina

Mixed Reviews for Yelp

Your article about Yelp ["You've Been Yelped," February] reminded me of a recent trip to Scottsdale, Arizona. I stopped at a great gelato store and, out of curiosity, checked out its Yelp reviews afterward. One reviewer described the owners as "thieves" because the prices were, in the reviewer's opinion, too high. Another complained that the owners spoke Italian. Comments like these reflect more on the reviewers than on the store. They were pointless, unreasonably negative, and poorly written. The prices were not high, as far as I was concerned, and the owners speak Italian because they are from Italy. Perhaps Yelp should add a helpfulness rating to weed out inane reviews like these.

Jerry Dawson
Owner, Hot Springs Village Jumbo Postcards
Hot Springs Village, Arkansas

Max Chafkin's article about Yelp was excellent. Lauren Hart and Diane Goodman are good examples of the right and wrong ways to tackle a problem. The article points out that Yelp is not a business owner's friend, and that is so true. But, as Hart demonstrated, every problem is an opportunity in disguise. What Yelp can do is bring all of your haters together in one place. The ability to take those critics and turn them into customers, or at least make them rethink their positions, can be powerful and inspiring for a business owner.

Benjamin Draper
Owner, Captison Method
La Palma, California

Though I agree that Yelp can be an invaluable resource for businesses, I struggle to find the humanity in firing an employee based on the number of stars he or she receives in a review, as Lauren Hart of Root Salon said she would consider doing. Hart would be better served by helping employees improve their skills.

Brett Self
New manager in training, Chick-fil-A
Birmingham, Alabama

Executive Coat Closet

Meg Hirshberg's article about running a business out of your home was very timely for me [Balancing Acts, February]. I run my architectural design business from a 3-foot-by-3-foot coat closet at the center of my 1,200-square-foot home. I can't count the number of times I've been on the phone with a client and given my kids the death stare followed by the finger-across-the-throat signal or angrily pulled an imaginary zipper across my lips and mouthed the word silence. Luckily, I have no employees.

Ironically, the advertisement below the article portrays several smiling business owners who look like they're having the time of their lives. They seem confident and successful (and, I would bet, none of them runs a business from home). Between the article and the advertisement, I was reminded why I started my own business and that, until my office is wider than it is tall, I might as well find joy in the journey.

Don Lever
Owner/designer, Fortress Architectural Design
Layton, Utah

Press 1 for Better Service

I liked Paul English's idea that if you make engineers answer e-mails and phone calls from customers, they'll fix a problem the second or third time they get the same question about it [The Way I Work, February]. I wish other companies would adopt that strategy. I've wasted way too much time with customer service people who don't pass my problems along to those who can fix them. English understands the foundation on which good companies are built.

Clyde Smith
Blogger in chief, Cultural Research
Raleigh, North Carolina

Is the Customer Always Right?

I enjoyed Jane Berentson's thoughts on the maxim "the customer is always right" [Editor's Letter, February]. I cut my teeth in the computer superstore business, where the traditional mantras of "the customer is always right" and "always give customers what they want" were preached at every turn. I came to the conclusion that some customers try to take advantage of these philosophies by making unreasonable requests. I ultimately amended my mantra to "always give customers what they want, but what the customers want is always negotiable." In my experience, most people can be reasoned with to come up with a solution that is fair to both parties.

Brendan Coughlin
President, Coughlin Enterprises

Cover Boy at Heart

When I attended the Inc. 500|5000 conference in Washington, D.C., last fall, I was a little afraid that I wouldn't fit in, because, so often, the magazine is populated with people under the age of 30. As I talked with participants, however, I began to realize that I had a lot in common with many of them. They weren't all young. They hadn't all left school early to pursue a burning business idea. In fact, many looked and sounded just like me: They were middle-aged, had graduate degrees, and although they had always wanted the freedom to pursue their own ideas and philosophies, they were in business today because a unique circumstance pushed them in that direction. Please remember that people like us are not always cover material, but we are often the heart of growing businesses.

Philip W. Arbuckle
Founder and president, MeetingTrack
Olathe, Kansas

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